Tuesday, April 21, 2020

U.S. Department of Justice: The Community Relations Service & the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

The Community Relations Service and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, P.L. 111-84 (2009)

For over 45 years, community tension on the basis of race, color, or national origin has triggered CRS jurisdiction.  Pursuant to its legislative mandate as established by Title X of the Civil Rights Act, section 2000g-1, CRS “provide(s) assistance to communities and persons therein in resolving disputes, disagreements, or difficulties relating to discriminatory practices based on race, color, or national origin which impair the rights of persons in such communities under the Constitution or laws of the United States or which affect or may affect interstate commerce.”

With the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), CRS is authorized to work with communities to employ strategies to prevent and respond to alleged violent hate crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability in addition to continuing to employ strategies to prevent and respond to community tension relating to alleged discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, or national origin.

What Can CRS Do to Prevent and Respond to Alleged Violent Hate Crimes?
·         Since 1964, CRS has assisted communities in the aftermath of alleged hate crimes and hate incidents that were perceived to be committed because of a person’s race, color, or national origin. 
·         As Attorney General Holder explained when testifying before the Senate in support of the HCPA, “hate crimes victimize not only individuals, but entire communities.”  Under the HCPA, when CRS responds to an alleged violent hate crime committed on the basis of actual or perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, race, color, or national origin, it will conduct an assessment of community tension associated with the alleged hate crime. 
·         Upon assessment, CRS will explore opportunities to assist willing parties to develop and implement local strategies that can help law enforcement, local officials, civil rights organizations, or interested community groups to respond to the alleged hate crime and find ways to prevent future hate crimes.
·         To facilitate the development of the community capacity to help prevent hate crimes and improve community response mechanisms, CRS services and programs may include: conciliation, mediation, training, technical assistance, and other tension reduction techniques.
·         Because it is not CRS’ role to determine the validity of a claim of discrimination or allegations of a violent hate crime, to the extent that community members perceive activities as violent hate crimes or as precursors to these crimes, it is appropriate for CRS to offer services in response to those incidents and to assist parties to employ strategies to prevent hate crime acts in their communities.

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